The First Amendment of the US Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The phrase "separation of church and state" does not come from the First Amendment but it comes from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Church. In that letter he wrote, "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.
Until recently, the First Amendment, was commonly understood that: 1. There would be no national religion. 2. People were free to exercise their religions so long as that exercise did not harm the rights of others. 3. That no one should be punished for their opinions and beliefs (no matter how crazy or offensive) so long as they didn't translate those opinions into actions which would violate the inalienable rights of others. Here is an exaggerated example: Someone could believe in human sacrifice and they could in speech and in writing express their opinions that human sacrifice is the "will of their god". So long as they did not make the action of actually sacrificing a human, their beliefs and speech were protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, even if everyone found their beliefs offensive and disgusting.
I grew very politically aware. I was born in 1976 and my mother showed me a special certificate I received when I was born related to the bi-centennial of the Declaration of Independence. I remember at the age of 4 listening to the radio with my family and hearing about the election of Ronald Reagan as President. Growing up, while my classmates were engrossed in major league baseball, I was equally engaged in politics and history. I went on to earn a BA in Political Science (honors). I aspired to become a civil-rights attorney and then pursue elected office. However, in 2000 God called me on a spiritual journey that has caused me to serve as a missionary and a Christian apologist in Cambodia.
Since beginning that journey more than 15 years ago, I have laid down my political aspirations and have refrained as much as possible from commenting on political issues and endorsing candidates. Because it is ten times more difficult to vote while overseas, there wasn't any candidate really worth that much trouble, and there is a much greater chance that overseas votes won't be counted anyway, I haven't even voted since 2004 (I will make every effort to vote in 2016). Since the turn of the 21st century, I have been content to stay on the church side of the "wall of separation" using my time and talents to campaign for Jesus Christ as King of Kings among the people of Cambodia instead of ______ for President in the USA. Jesus Christ has not disappointed me but the politicians have rarely failed...to disappoint me.
While I have tried my best to refrain from politics, I have still kept up to date with issues. Within the past year or two I have noticed more and more stories of people's freedoms of religion, speech, and press being violated. As a political scientist, it bothers me because I still believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. As a Christian Apologist I am troubled by the rise of religious persecution around the world and the use of the powers of government and lynch-mobs to force people to conform their beliefs to the politically correct fad of the day. In case you were wondering, the USA already has an established national religion- secular humanism. Anyone or anything who dares to question the "sacred doctrines" of evolution, environmentalism, feminism (abortion on demand) or same-sex marriage is now labeled a "heretic" (religious fundamentalist, climate change denier, sexist, racist, homophobe etc.). Then they are subject to, as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said, "a high-tech lynching." Now, the lynch-mobs threaten to burn down pizza places, whose owners have religious reservations about serving pizza at a same-sex wedding (I can't imagine who would want pizza at their wedding). Right now, people are losing their life-savings and their livelihoods through lawsuits. I fear that if this is left unchecked people in the USA will start losing their lives through death or unjust imprisonment, as they already do around the world.
I believe that Thomas Jefferson and all the Founders would be appalled at the use of the courts to punish people for their convictions, the firing of people for Facebook posts, and the lack of willingness of governments at all levels to respect, accommodate, and provide space for their citizens' sincerely held religious beliefs and conscientious objections.
They say that "good fences make good neighbors." I tried to be a good neighbor. I was willing to stay on my side of the "wall of separation" but the government has broken down the wall and has invaded the territory of the Church (the Body of Christ). Some think that the gate in the wall should be one-way so that the government should have the power to influence, criticize, and control, the church but not the other way around. I see a one-way gate as a prison that I am not willing or able to accept quietly. As a Christian Apologist, my ministry is to defend God's character, God's truth, God's Word, and God's people against attacks from within and without. The Church (the Body of Christ) didn't break down the wall of separation, the government did. Now that the wall is broken, as a Christian Apologist, I have no choice but to defend Christianity against the attacks that come from the government just as I would if they came from a false teacher, a cult, or another religion.
As an Apologist in Exile (living in Cambodia) I believe that I have more freedom to speak the truth that some of you living in the USA may not have anymore. The pizza delivery guy has trouble finding my house even when I give him directions so I think that the protestors will have trouble too. If they sue me (I hope it is in a Cambodian court) and they take everything I have, they still won't get enough money to buy a certified pre-owned car. If they take away my income as a missionary, I will move my family back to the USA, sign up for welfare, Obamacare, and food-stamps and let the government finance my ministry until I get my money back (then I will go get a job). If they kill me, I will graduate to heaven early. Sen.Ted Cruz called for "courageous conservatives." I am calling for, "courageous Christians."
Here are some Scriptures that guide me:
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia the Greek root for Apologetics) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:13-17 NASB)
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:17-21 NASB)
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21
Ambassadors must live in the host country. We must learn to use the World's language to effectively communicate the Good News to the World. We must do our best to build relationships with those who are in the World so that we can show them God's love. However, our highest loyalty must be to the interests of our King of Kings, Jesus Christ. We must represent His will to the people of this world. We can trust Him to protect us and if necessary to withdraw us to Heaven, our true home-country when it is time.
Cambodia, April 8, 2015
by Darryl Record